iOS Device Backup

23 01 2014

iOS devices, particularly the iPad, are more often used for working on documents with Apple’s iWork suite, storing relevant information in databases, using mind mapping tools for brainstorming, etc.

So the data stored by apps should be backed up to prevent data loss.

Apple’s backup strategy …

Apple offers two versions of complete device backups, via iTunes and via iCloud. Both backups contain all data of your device and, in case of a device’s malfunctioning, can be used to restore the complete device.

Please read again: The complete device.

It’s not possible to extract the data of a single app which was deleted before because of an operation error or in case of a necessary re-installation.

An exception would be if the app supports iCloud and it’s data are stored there. If the app then is re-installed it might get it’s data back from iCloud. This depends on the app and has to be proven before deleting an app with the help of the developers manual or support.

A further exception would be an app supporting cloud access like the mind mapping tool iThoughts. This app supports Dropbox and all the locally managed mind maps should be additionally saved on your Dropbox account to seamlessly get them back if the app was deleted.

Keep in mind that iOS always stores app specific data in app specific folders which means that the data stored on the device get lost if the app is deleted.


For apps which do not support iCloud or any other cloud storage you have to save data manually by connecting your device to a computer with an installed version of iTunes and save the data from within the File Sharing section of iTunes to your local hard drive.


That’s the only way to restore data for this kind of apps.
There are some tools available for restoring app specific data as mentioned under ‘Related links’ but these tools are not supported by Apple and so it’s off topic for my blog. It’s always a risk to use such tools. It might work or it might go wrong. So it’s your decision to use them.

Device failure …

If you no longer have access to your device because it’s locked or the operating system malfunctions you have to Recover your device.


Please refer to my article


iTunes or iCloud …

See this mind map to decide whether you should prefer backups via iTunes or iCloud. It’s recommended to use both backup procedures if you use your iOS device for creating valuable content.


Feel free to download this map from my Box account.

The alternative file formats have been created with iThoughts HD for iPad (.ITMZ file format). Compatibility to other tools is limited. The DOCX file format is suggested for those who don’t use a mind mapping tool. The file contains the image as well as a detailed outline of all topics.

Application File format
Adobe Reader PDF
Apple iWork/Microsoft Office DOCX
iThoughts ITMZ
MindManager MMAP

Using a backup password …

Using a password is highly recommended. If you don’t use it sensitive data like E-Mail account information, saved WiFi access credentials, or iTunes account information are not stored in the backup files.

But keep in mind …

If you encrypt an iOS device backup in iTunes and forget your password, you will not be able to restore and your data will be unrecoverable.

If you cannot remember the password and want to start again, you must perform a full software restore and when iTunes prompts you to select the backup from which to restore, choose set up as a new device.

Location of iTunes backups …

The folder where your backup data are stored depends on the computer’s operating system. Make sure the backup folder is included in your periodic backup of your computer.

iTunes stores the backup files here:

home/Library/Application Support/MobileSync/Backup/

Windows Vista, 7, 8
\Users\(username)\AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\MobileSync\Backup\

Apple’s backup files are XML files. Any manipulation of the folder’s content may destroy the backup.

Summary …

Better sage than sorry. So an iCloud backup should regularly be completed by an iTunes backup.
Sad to say that this is a task which cannot be done if you move into the Post-PC era.

Related links …



McBackup, backup of contacts

Every app is an iLand

iOS Backup Extractor

Thanks for stopping by.

Mac Back

25 03 2013

If you use iCloud contacts can be automatically synced across your other iOS devices. Go to Settings – iCloud – Contacts and switch the slider to ON.

For backing up your contacts you can use iCloud or iTunes backup or sync your contacts e.g. with Microsoft Outlook. The disadvantage of iCloud backups as well as iTunes backups is that you cannot restore contacts (or other app specific files) separately. Apple’s backup system allows only to restore the whole device.

So in some cases it’s useful to backup the contacts separately.
To do so you need an app and it would be nice to have some additional features like Deleting Duplicates. Duplicates may occur if syncing via iCloud failed for any reason.

Here is an app available at Apple’s App Store which makes you independent of iTunes and iCloud.

My Contacts Backup Pro

This was not written by a child when exploring iPad’s keyboard it’s just the company name of the developer. It’s like my last name when multiplying the number of characters by 5.33.

The app has a plain and simple user interface with meaningful help text.
I myself use it since more than one year without any problem.

Here are the features …

  • Backup contacts using vCard or CSV file format
  • Send backup file via E-Mail
  • Save backup file to Dropbox by linking the app with a Dropbox account
  • Restore the generated backup file from within an E-Mail by simply tapping on the attached backup file
  • Transfer of contacts between different iOS devices with different Apple IDs
  • Supported iTunes and WiFi File Sharing
  • Remove duplicate contacts
  • Delete all contacts in Apple’s address book
  • Set reminder to backup regularly

Here is the UI …



Feature requests …

While writing this article I contacted the McBackup support and here are the answers.

Can vcf backup file used for transferring contacts from Android to iOS devices?

Yes it can. iOS and Android platforms support vCard (VCF) since it’s an universal contact file format :

But because of following reasons, transferring VCF files between these platforms are not always %100 compatible or successful:

* Now there are 3 different versions (2.1, 3.0 and 4.0) of vCard format and some properties (fields) are not supported on some versions. But all iOS devices Mail clients support vCard 3.0 and some of Android devices (especially) support vCard 2.1. But new Android devices support vCard 3.0

* Device manufacturers use some non-standard (private) fields in their Address Book and vCard supports these private extensions, with an “X-” prefix but transferring these fields between platforms are not always successful.

Is there any option to encrypt the backup file?

Not yet but we can add an option like this easily such as storing backup file in a pasword protected zip file. But this backup file can not be restored with Mail clients easily. Our solution is very easy and simple because you need any app or program to restore contacts from backup file. But encrypting a backup file needs extra operations and apss.

Managing duplicates …

If you just want to manage duplicates in contacts use the free app OneContact developed by Hasso Plattner Insitute and CAS Software, IT Systems Engineering at the University of Potsdam, Germany.
With this app you can manually resolve conflicts of nearly identical contacts and delete duplicates. The app investigates about 1000 contacts per minute.


Thanks for reading my blog.

iCloud Backup fails

28 01 2013

The last backup could not be completed.

This message may occur if you back up your iOS-Device on iCloud.
It’s unrewarding like many other error messages shown on any devices.

I get this message every time I delete the last iCloud backup for my iPad or iPhone going to Settings – iCloud – Storage + Backup – Manage Storage – (device name) – Backup options: Delete Backup
It never occurred on any later incremental backup regardless of whether it was started manually or automatically.

At the time you cannot find any support document on Apple’s support website explicitly mentioning this error message.

Apple iCloud: Troubleshooting creating backups

Apple never publishes support documents about not fully investigated issues.

For the protection of our customers, Apple does not disclose, discuss, or confirm security issues until a full investigation has occurred and any necessary patches or releases are available.

So it is not fully investigated and there are many potential reasons for failing backups.
If the involved hard- and software works normally and there is enough free space in iCloud it’s usually a problem of accessing one or more files on the device or on Apple’s servers.

As iCloud backup is an incremental backup access problems are rather likely especially for temporary files created by iOS apps. This problem is well-known also on Windows PCs (Office leaves a temporary beginning with ~).

An incremental backup is one that provides a backup of files that have changed or are new since the last incremental backup; it is one that backs up only the data that changed since the last backup. When a full recovery is needed the restoration process would need the last full backup plus all the incremental backups until the point-in-time of the restoration. Incremental backups consume minimum storage space and are quicker to perform than differential backups.

A test from Jan, 2013 …

The test environment

  • Backup of data of all apps configured
  • iPad and iPhone both connected to power supply
  • Backup size: iPhone 1.9 GB / iPad 2.7 GB
  • Backup started simultaneously on both devices

The results …


On both devices the error message was displayed.
After repeating ‘Back Up Now’ the error was still displayed on both devices.
After rebooting both devices and repeating both backups one after another both backups were completed successfully.

While backing up iPhone showed a reminder, got 2 new mails and one phone call.
Nevertheless the backup was completed successfully.

Solutions from forums around the world …

  • Do not include data stored in the Camera Roll
    Settings – iCloud – Storage + Backup – Manage Storage – (device name) – Backup options – switch the slider to off
  • Restore the device from an iTunes backup and start the iCloud backup
  • Exclude data of ALL apps and back up
    Add data of apps back one by one and back up manually to find out the offending app
    This process may last until Apple presents its new device!

Best practice …

Do not believe all these statements in the forums.
They are all not really verified and based on special prerequisites and therefore not necessarily valid.

I start a manual backup every month since the release of iOS 5 after deleting the backup via Settings – iCloud – Storage + Backup – Manage Storage – (device name) – Backup options: Delete Backup. The following procedure works since more than one year.

Reboot the device and start a backup manually while the device is connected to the power supply and locked. If the backup fails repeat it. If it fails one more time repeat it.
Don’t worry. Retaking a backup will only last some minutes unless there is already stored data of former attempts.

When you back up the device shows an estimated time to finish.
You should know that these minutes are measured in DAMs (Dynamical Apple Minutes).
An Apple Minute may last an old fashioned minute or two or just 30 seconds.

Attachments …

Reducing space of backups

  • Settings – iCloud – Storage + Backup – Manage Storage – (device name) – Backup options: Exclude data of apps you do not need any longer.
  • Settings – iCloud – Storage + Backup – Manage Storage – (device name) – Backup options: Delete Backup
    Current backup sizes: iPhone 1.6 GB/iPad 3.2 GB
    Backup sizes after deletion: iPhone 1.2 GB/iPad 2.5 GB
    Deleting the complete backup for my 2 devices saved 1.1 GB

Rebooting an iOS-Device

Press Sleep/Wake button and Home button simultaneously.
Keep holding the buttons until the Apple logo appears.
Release the buttons.

ROBOCOPY the iOS-Backup

10 01 2013

You can backup your iOS-Devices on iCloud.
If you additionally use iTunes you may want to transfer the complete iTunes-Backup of your devices to another location.

For Windows Vista/7/8-Computers there is a powerful helper app shipped with Windows that can sync one location with another in one direction (source to destination). It’s called ROBOCOPY.exe.

Robocopy, or ‘Robust File Copy’, is a command-line directory replication command. It has been available as part of the Windows Resource Kit starting with Windows NT 4.0, and was introduced as a standard feature of Windows Vista, Windows 7/8 and Windows Server 2008. The command is robocopy.

Features of ROBOCOPY …

  • Ability to tolerate network interruptions and resume copying. (incomplete files are marked with a date stamp of 1980-01-01 and contain a recovery record so Robocopy knows where to continue from)
  • Ability to skip Junction Points which can cause to fail copying in an infinite loop (/XJ)
  • Ability to copy file data and attributes correctly, and to preserve original timestamps, as well as NTFS ACLs, owner information, and audit information using command line switches. (/COPYALL or /COPY:) Copying folder timestamps is also possible in later versions (/DCOPY:T).
    Access control list (ACL), with respect to a computer file system, is a list of permissions attached to an object. An ACL specifies which users or system processes are granted access to objects, as well as what operations are allowed on given objects
  • Ability to assert the Windows NT ‘backup right’ (/B) so an administrator may copy an entire directory, including files denied readability to the administrator.
  • Persistence by default, with a programmable number of automatic retries if a file cannot be opened.
  • A ‘mirror’ mode, which keeps trees in sync by optionally deleting files out of the destination that are no longer present in the source.
  • Ability to skip files that already appear in the destination folder with identical size and timestamp.
  • A continuously updated command-line progress indicator.
  • Ability to copy file and folder names exceeding 256 characters on to a theoretical limit of 32,000 characters without errors.
  • Return code on program termination for batch file usage.

The BATCH-File …

Use this BATCH-File with ROBOCOPY-Commands to do the job.

robocopy "c:\Users\%1\AppData\Local\Apple" "%2:\ios-backup" /mir /purge /tee /log+:c:\Users\%1\AppData\Local\Apple\ROBOCOPY-IOS-DEVICE.log /np
robocopy "c:\Users\%1\AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer" "%2:\ios-backup" /mir /purge /tee /log+:c:\Users\%1\AppData\Local\Apple\ROBOCOPY-IOS-DEVICE.log /np

Add these lines to the BATCH-File if you need some help.

@echo off
echo -------------------------------------------------------------
echo Microsoft ROBOCOPY for transferring iOS-Backups to a location
echo .
echo 2012-12-21 by
echo -------------------------------------------------------------
rem Windows 7 .......................... Some ROBOCOPY Parameters
rem /MIR Mirrors a directory tree
rem /PURGE Deletes destination files/directorys not in source
rem /XD Excludes directories matching specifies names/paths
rem /tee Write status output to console window+log file
rem /log: Write status output to the log file
rem /np no progress (%-Fortschritt nicht anzeigen, loggen)
rem /XD set this parameter for drive mirroring
rem "g:\RECYCLER"
rem "l:\$RECYCLE.BIN"
rem "g:\WindowsImageBackup"
rem "g:\System Volume Information"
rem -------------------------------------------------------------
rem Parameter %1 .......................... your Windows username
rem %2 .......................... the destination drive
rem -------------------------------------------------------------

The BATCH-File uses two parameters %1 and %2.
Either you modify the file by filling in your Windows username and the destination drive or you start the BATCH-File with the command
ROBOCOPY-IOS-DEVICE.bat username destination
e.g. ROBOCOPY-IOS-DEVICE.bat inotes4you d where d is the drive letter for the destination drive.


Notes and some stats …

Crash Reporter
While robocopying an iOS-Backup you may see files with extension .crash.
When an application stops functioning properly or crashes on an iOS device, a ‘Crash Report” is created and stored on the device. Crash reports describe the conditions under which the application terminated, in most cases including a complete stack trace for each executing thread, and are typically very useful for debugging issues in the application.

Then each time you sync your iPhone to a Mac or Windows computer, iTunes transfers the crash log content to your local hard drive. You can locate individual crash log files on your computer and delete them in order to free space on your hard drive and device.

Navigate to the
directory. Delete all files and sync your device via iTunes.

Some stats
The referred devices in the screenshots are an iPhone 4S (64 GB, 13.5 GB used by apps and data) and an iPad 3 (64 GB, 16.7 GB used).
The complete backup of these two devices is 3.95 GB.
The logs\CrashReporter\MobileDevice\… folder contains 4,113 files with 95,1 MB.
The overall number of files of the two device backups is 15,636.

The cloudy iCloud

8 01 2013

Some years ago, the word cloud mostly related to the clouds in the sky, now it immediately makes me think of Data Clouds. Although a recent study totally contradicts this saying that most people think it is run on actual clouds in the sky. Most businesses manage their data in the cloud, because it’s an easy way to collaborate and all the information is accessible anywhere and anytime from any platform. Private users use cloud services like Dropbox, Google Drive, Box and SkyDrive to easily share or backup pictures, music and documents. Although these solutions are easy and often reliable, how much of your private data do you really want to entrust to big corporations?

When it comes to privacy, there is a very fine line of knowing what these companies are doing with your data and whose hands are actually on it. Security breaches have been very common and they aren’t going anywhere. Sometimes it’s not the question of will someone steal your data, it’s when will they steal your data.

iCloud is one of the largest improvements ever made to increase usability and productivity of electronic devices.

But …

Are my backups and synced data secure on iCloud?

What this blog contains …

  • The simple answer
  • Some details about iCloud-Security
  • The good news
  • The worse news
  • The Apple ID
  • Summary
  • An example how it should be
  • Attachments
    Encryption techniques
    Managing data with iWork


The simple answer …

The simple answer is that your data is at least as safe as it is when stored on any remote server, if not more so. All data is transferred to computers and mobile devices using secure sockets layer via WebDAV, IMAP or HTTP. All data (except E-Mail and Notes) are stored and encrypted on Apple’s servers. Secure authentication tokens are created on mobile devices to retrieve information without constantly transmitting a password.

Some details about iCloud-Security …

(quoted from Apple’s Terms and Conditions for iCloud)

Access to Your Account and Content
Apple reserves the right to take steps Apple believes are reasonably necessary or appropriate to enforce and/or verify compliance with any part of this Agreement. You acknowledge and agree that Apple may, without liability to you, access, use, preserve and/or disclose your Account information and Content to law enforcement authorities, government officials, and/or a third party, as Apple believes is reasonably necessary or appropriate, if legally required to do so or if we have a good faith belief that such access, use, disclosure, or preservation is reasonably necessary to: (a) comply with legal process or request; (b) enforce this Agreement, including investigation of any potential violation thereof; (c) detect, prevent or otherwise address security, fraud or technical issues; or (d) protect the rights, property or safety of Apple, its users, a third party, or the public as required or permitted by law.

This means that Apple employees have the technical ability to read your data.

There may be procedural, technical, or policy controls to make this unlikely, but the capability is there. That means that if Apple’s cloud ever gets compromised by a sophisticated attacker, the attacker could potentially access all your data. In other words, any data breach or accident on Apple’s part could potentially expose your data. This may not be too likely but even respected companies like Google have been breached. A breach or other exposure of the iCloud servers is not unthinkable.

E-Mails and Notes are not stored in encrypted form, while on Apple’s servers. This might be dangerous as E-Mails often contains sensitive information (e.g., account passwords, reset links, etc.).

When Government comes knocking Apple will not be transparent about requests for access to your data and not telling users when their data has been disclosed to the government.

The risks are not limited to government requests.
If you get sued, or end up in a contentious divorce, the opposing party’s lawyers could subpoena your data from Apple, and Apple would be required to disclose it to them, if they are relevant to the case. But who knows it before investigating the contents?

The good news …

Data is encrypted using SSL while it is transferred (in transit) between your computer and the iCloud servers. Also, data is encrypted while it is stored on the iCloud servers (at rest).

The worse news …

iCloud uses server-side encryption, not client-side encryption. When sending data to the cloud, it gets encrypted on your machine with SSL, then decrypted at the iCloud servers, then re-encrypted using an encryption key that only Apple knows for storage.

The Apple ID …

The security of your data on iCloud is only as good as the passphrase on your Apple ID.
Therefore, if you want your data to be secure, you need to choose a long and strong passphrase. Unfortunately, there are some aspects of the current systems that tend to nudge users towards choosing short, weak passphrases.

    The OS refuses to store this passphrase in the keychain, requiring you to type it in frequently. If you use an iOS-Device, you will frequently need to type in your Apple ID passphrase (e.g., every time you install or update an app). Because entering a long and strong passphrase is a major pain on an iPhone, many users may end up choosing a short, poor passphrase just for convenience sake — which unfortunately leaves their iCloud data poorly secured. So, the current design may tend to encourage many users to use a weak password, leaving their data at risk.

Summary …

iCloud’s security practices are largely in line with mainstream practice in this area. iCloud appears to have a reasonable and professionally designed security architecture. While there are some security risks, for most people, iCloud’s security is likely to be good enough, and the convenience benefits of iCloud will likely outweigh any risks for most folks.

However, storing your data in the cloud does increase the risk. For some particularly sensitive users (health records, financial institutions, lawyers, etc.) it might be prudent to avoid storing the most sensitive data in the cloud.

An example how it should be …

The solution are apps which already store their data encrypted on your device and use the highest level of iOS Protection classes that is ‘Accessible only when Unlocked’ (disadvantage: syncing won’t start happening immediately when your phone is turned on) and ‘Non-migratable’ (disadvantage: if you migrate all of your device settings and data to a different device you will have to re-enter the password).
These data will be, let me say DOUBLE-ENCRYPTED, when transferred to iCloud and stored there. They cannot be accessed with server-side keys only.
An example is 1Password (AgileBits) for managing passwords, bank accounts and beyond.


Interested people even with less technical understanding should read these articles about security design basics …

AgileBits Cloud Storage Security

Lost iPhone and Safe Passwords

Attachments …

Encryption techniques …

Full-strength, randomly generated, user-managed key
This is the most secure setting. Access to the full server data gives the attacker no useful information. Unfortunately, it is also the most difficult to use. Enabling a new device requires coordination with an existing device. If users lose all of their devices, e.g. if they only have one device and it breaks, there’s no way to recover.

Password-derived key
The data is encrypted with a key derived from the user’s password. This is not as secure as the previous setting, since most user passwords are not nearly as strong as full-strength crypto keys. However, as my colleague Brian Warner is exploring, it may be possible to still make it quite expensive to break into a single user’s dataset, and prohibitively expensive to go fishing for data across many user accounts. Usability is significantly increased: a user can set up a new device simply by typing in their password. However, the crypto conundrum remains: lose your password, lose your data.

Server-side security (applied to Apple’s iCloud)
Users don’t manage keys, and servers technically have access to the user data. A number of techniques can be used to meaningfully restrict the chance of a leak (e.g. disk encryption or other type of encryption where the server holds the key somewhere.) Security against insider attackers is not nearly as high as with the two previous solutions. This is, of course, how almost every service on the Internet works today. It is the only model that maps to user intuition, where a user can forget their password, lose their devices, and still recover. Apple holds the (encryption) key!

Turn off apps which should not sync their data using iCloud or which should not include their data into iCloud backups. To do this go to

Settings – iCloud – Storage + Backup – Manage Storage – Your device

and deactivate all apps which data you do not want to be handled by iCloud services.
Do something similar with data of Apple’s pre-installed apps
(Mail, Calendars, Contacts, Reminders, Safari, Notes, Photo stream).
But if you do so you will loose all the benefits coming with iCloud.

Recommendations …

Consider three vulnerabilities …

  • Access in accordance with Terms and Conditions of the cloud provider
  • Stealing of the device
  • Hacking of your device
  • Hacking of the cloud storage

To keep your data secure there is no simple workaround.
But you can do your best with theses settings and keeping your sensitive data away from apps not supporting encryption.

  • Use a strong password for you Apple ID even if it is not convenient
  • Use an Unlock Code for your device
  • Use the Auto-Lock option for time-based automatic locking
  • Use unlock codes for lockable apps managing sensitive data
  • Do not use cloud storages for saving data managed by apps not supporting encryption already on your device

If your thoughts are still in turbulence …
Keep your devices under lock in Fort Knox, switch them off and lock the door with your one and only key. Don’t loose the key!

Managing data with iWork …

The most powerful setting is using the iCloud service for syncing iWork-Documents across your devices. It’s simple and automatic and predestined for frequent usage of different devices.

But keep in mind that these documents should not contain sensitive data as they are NOT DOUBLE-ENCRYPTED like those of the app 1Password mentioned above.

As an alternative manage sensitive data e.g. in NUMBERS and exclude this application from iCloud syncing and iCloud backup. To back up the data use iTunes with a strong backup password.

Another solution would be to store iWork documents highly encrypted via WebDAV on a cloud storage which does not use server-side encryption. At the time Apple does not support this feature.


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